Australia's Best 4x4 Tracks: The (Very) Dirty Dozen
WRITTEN BY: MARCUS CRAFT
Off-road legend Marcus Craft lists his 12 must-do Aussie 4WD tracks. How many have you done?
1. BINNS TRACK – NORTHERN TERRITORY
Where: Mt Dare to Timber Creek // When: April-October
If you like it: Spectacularly dusty
Another of Australia’s most remote and most challenging tracks, this one from Mt Dare to Timber Creek, takes in the Simpson Desert’s western edge. So, expect bull dust, sand dunes, and rocky creek beds—plus spectacular scenery. The off-roading along this route is mostly rated medium but there are sections that are more challenging, including the Frew River Loop, a tough 17km 4WD track, which includes low-speed, low-range 4WDing, through the Davenport Ranges. This section alone is considered one of the most difficult off-road routes in the Territory.
2. THE CREB TRACK – QUEENSLAND
Where: The Daintree // When: April–October
If you like it: Steep, rough and rainforesty
A trip to Cape York, essentially a series of awesome tracks of varying degrees of difficulty, is 4WDing Holy Grail. But getting to the start of any of those tracks is an adventure unto itself. On your way to the Tip, give one of the Far North’s most legendary routes, the CREB Track, a nudge. This extremely steep and very rough track starts near Daintree Village, connecting the Daintree to Wujal Wujal, and it becomes outrageously challenging even after a little bit of rain. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s really only for very prepared and experienced 4WDers. You’ve been warned.
3. CORNER COUNTRY – NEW SOUTH WALES
Where: Broken Hill to Cameron Corner // When: April–October
If you like it: Out of your comfort zone
An absolute must-do for any aspiring or experienced off-roader, this drive takes you from Broken Hill, 1000km west of Sydney, to Cameron Corner, where Queensland, NSW and South Australia connect. Even though the route itself may be reasonably easy in terms of 4WDing, travellers must still be very well prepared. The driving surface out here can vary from dry, rough and corrugated to treacherously muddy if there’s been rain. This drive takes you through quintessential Australian bush towns and the real Outback. You’d be mad to miss it.
4. BLUE RAG RANGE – VICTORIA
Where: Blue Rag Range Track // When: Closed in winter
If you like: Awesome scenery
The great thing about off-roading is that while you’re having fun tackling some challenging driving, there’s also plenty of awesome scenery to savour along the way. Blue Rag Range Track is part-sightseeing wonder and part-adrenalin-jolt with its High Country birds-eye views and its steep, rocky hillclimbs and chopped-up descents. Plenty of off-road experience is required and a modified vehicle is recommended as well. This drive is a real rite of passage for any self-respecting 4WDer and so deserves its place on your must-do list.
5. MONKEY GUM TRACK – NEW SOUTH WALES
Where: Yalwal, in the Shoalhaven // When: Anytime
If you like it: Deceptive and frightening
We’ve spent many a day out here having a play around. Monkey Gum Fire Trail, near Nowra, is one of NSW’s toughest bloody tracks: deceptively simple in parts and full-on frightening in others. It’s steep, rutted, washed-out and very, very tricky. There are plenty of tracks around this area, including some great power line tracks, but Monkey Gum has the fiercest reputation around for pushing 4WD enthusiasts and their vehicles to the limits—but in a good way. It’s only for very experienced 4WDers and modified vehicles really are better suited to it than most standard 4WDs. There are some alternative routes for trickier sections.
6. THE BORDER TRACK – VICTORIA & SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Where: Hopetoun to Renmark // When: April–October
If you like it: Wild and remote
This track leads visitors through wild mallee country and plenty of sand from Hopetoun to the Sturt Highway and then spits them out in Renmark, South Australia. The route takes you into remote parts of Wyperfeld and Murray-Sunset national parks, so proper preparation is crucial, but it’s worth the effort because nature’s rich rewards are here in abundance. It’s the sort of gobsmacking trip that can have the most stoic types grasping for poetry—or at least some of Cold Chisel’s slower songs. Best for seasoned, well-prepared off-roaders in 4WDs with low-range gearing and ample clearance. It can be done in a standard 4WD, but it’s risky. Beware.
7. BIRDSVILLE TRACK – SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Where: Marree to Birdsville // When: April–October
If you like it: Fairly laid-back
Another of Australia’s greatest 4WD experiences. This unsealed track, from Marree to Birdsville, is not particularly difficult in terms of off-roading—in fact it can be downright civil depending on which part of the touring season you happen to drive it*—but it’s the experience and the atmosphere and the nothingness of tackling this dusty route out here that combine to make it such an appealing Outback adventure. Don’t take it lightly, though, because this is still remote-area travel and you need to be prepared, experienced and your vehicle needs to be up to the task. Do I sound like your dad? Good.
(*It can be either very smooth because it’s just been graded or chopped-up to hell because every Thomas, Richard and Harold has been driving it.)
8. OONADATTA TRACK – SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Where: 870km north of Adelaide // When: March–September
If you like it: Stunning and raw
Like the Birdsville track, the appeal of this route lies not in its degree of difficulty in terms of 4WDing—because it can be quite easy—but in its stunning raw beauty of crisp, blue skies and wide open plains. Oodnadatta ’s pink roadhouse is a fantastic sight to see and everything from then on is a bonus. The land is flat, the sun is startling and fellow travellers are few and far between. This is an iconic, well-travelled track in touring season, but it’s still not without its risks because this is a remote-area route, after all. Brilliant.
9. THE CANNING STOCK ROUTE – WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Where: Halls Creek to Wiluna // When: April–October
If you like it: Long and difficult
Still one of Australia’s most revered off-road journeys and one of the toughest, most gruelling trips in the country, if not the world. This corrugated track, running from Halls Creek to Wiluna, demands a lot from 4WDers and their vehicles. You must be experienced, supremely well-prepared and entirely self-sufficient (with enough fuel onboard for at least the 1100km to Kunawarritji). Scared you off, yet? No? Good, because this trip is well worth the effort. Rich in history and resplendent in natural wonder—yep, I’m getting fancy with my words again—the CSR is a real eye-opener. Don’t rush, take your time, drive to the conditions, drop tyre pressures to suit, keep a watchful eye on how your vehicle is coping (check it in the morning and afternoon) and … enjoy yourself.
10. GIBB RIVER ROAD – WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Where: The Kimberley // When: April–October
If you like it: Feeding crocodiles
The Gibb was an off-grid adventure before that kind of thing was even a thing. A rugged drive through the beautiful Kimberley region, the Gibb run, from Kununurra west to Derby, presents a daily variety of challenges to keep 4WDers on their toes for the duration. Time your visit well because monsoonal rains may hammer the route during the Wet, causing water crossings to overflow here and there—particularly the Pentecost River—and also ruining tracks and bridges. If you go for a swim in the incredible Windjana Gorge, keep a respectful distance away from the freshies (freshwater crocodiles).
11. THE POWER LINE – QUEENSLAND
Where: Glasshouse Mountains // When: Year-round
If you like it: Hardcore with an option to bail
Any track with ‘power line’ in its name is usually a cracking off-road route—we know of a stack in NSW that are plenty extreme—so if someone whispers “Power Line Track, Glasshouse Mountains” to you then you know they’re talking about a seriously fun time. This track is a cool blend of fantastic scenery and white-knuckled 4WDing. The terrain is tough, but the views are unreal and—bonus—most of the very steep and gnarly hardcore sections have an alternative ‘chicken’ track around the side, so if you’re concerned about doing some panel damage, then be sensible and drive along one of those.
12. CLIMIES TRACK – TASMANIA
Where: Granville Harbour to Trial Harbour // When: Avoid in winter
If you like it: Technical and coasty
This hilly coastal track through Mt Heemskirk Regional Reserve between Granville Harbour and Trial Harbour is a hardcore technical track. The scenery is wonderful—wild ocean, waterfalls and mountain views—but chances are you’ll be too busy enjoying the driving to take any notice of that. Climies Track is peppered with tough hillclimbs, swampy bog holes, rocky river crossings and heavily washed-out sections that will test drivers and vehicles. Anyone tackling this track should be a very experienced 4WDer and vehicles must have high ground clearance and high- and low-range gearing. Vehicle recovery gear is required. Keep in mind that weather can completely alter track conditions, making it much worse.